One of the ways to bring justice to victims and survivors of sex trafficking is to support the development of global, federal and state policies and legislation.
Commit to supporting policies that help end sex trafficking with your Task Force by:
1. Familiarize yourself with nationwide laws regarding trafficking
2. Find out how your state is doing in developing anti-trafficking policies
3. Be an advocate! Spread the word about new bills and policies that need support in order to be implemented, and contact your legislators to talk to them about why anti-trafficking measures are important.
Below is a summary of the key pieces of legislation in the United States, and ways to keep updated on the latest efforts to implement anti-trafficking focused policies in your state.
Key Existing Laws Regarding Trafficking
Trafficking Victims Protection Act
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was signed into law in 2000, and is still the largest piece of human rights legislation in U.S. history. The TVPA has been renewed through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Acts of 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013. The TVPA created the first comprehensive federal law to address human trafficking, addressing both domestic and international trafficking.
The TVPA takes a three-pronged approach against trafficking: 1. Prevention of trafficking vulnerability 2. Protection of survivors 3. Prosecution of traffickers
The TVPA creates:
- An Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons within the State Department, which is required to report on and rank countries’ efforts to combat trafficking. The President may impose sanctions on countries that fail to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking nor are making significant efforts to do so. (The latest Trafficking In Persons Report showing the countries’ rankings can be downloaded from: www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/)
- Public awareness and information programs, and international economic development programs to assist potential victims.
- Partnerships to attempt to prevent goods made by slave labor from entering the country.
- Expands the types of technical assistance that can be provided to foreign countries, including police training.
- Requires the Department of Labor to provide a list of goods that it has reason to believe have been made with forced labor or child labor.
- Provides the T Visa for foreign victims of trafficking in the U.S., allowing them protection and access to services in exchange for cooperation with law enforcement.
- Makes human trafficking a federal crime with severe penalties
- Creates new crimes of forced labor; trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor; sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion; or sex trafficking of children; and unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of trafficking. Attempts to engage in these acts are also criminalized.
- Mandates that restitution be paid to victims.
Key International Provisions of the TVPA Reauthorization
- Requires the U.S. government to terminate contracts with overseas contractors who engage in sex trafficking or commercial sex, or who use forced labor.
- Addresses sex tourism with prevention programs.
- Expands federal criminal jurisdiction to trafficking offenses committed abroad, meaning the alleged offender can be tried in the U.S. whether or not the crime was committed in the U.S. (“The Protection Act.”)
- Requires the U.S. to cut military aid to any country that uses children in their national army or government-supported militias.
- Requires that countries ranked on the Tier II Watch List for more than two years receive the same sanctions as countries ranked on Tier III.
Safe Harbor Laws
Safe Harbor legislation can:
- Correct the conflicts between federal and state law by exempting children from prosecution for prostitution
- Require training for law enforcement and other first responders on how to identify and assist victims
- Increase the penalties for traffickers and buyers
- Prompt the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team to develop a statewide system of care
Goals of Legislation:
- Remove minor victims of commercial sexual exploitation from the jurisdiction of the criminal justice and juvenile delinquency systems
- Decriminalize children in prostitution, while ensuring that other legal mechanisms are in place for the state to take temporary protective custody of these children
- Protect these children and provide them with specialized services, in recognition of their status as victims of crime and of the unique trauma that child victims of sex trafficking endure.
- Child victims of sex trafficking have very specialized needs that may include: safe houses, longer-term residential options, mental health care, access to GED or other remedial education programs, and life skills learning.
Considerations for Legislators:
- Amend state statutes prohibiting sex trafficking of children or pimping and pandering of children, to ensure that stiff penalties apply and that force or coercion is not a required element of the crime.
- Similarly to statutory rape laws, our criminal law should recognize the basic fact that children do not have the legal, psychological or emotional capacity to consent to engage in commercial sex acts.
- Prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children through training of law enforcement officers and other state officials and educating the general public about its dangers.
- Training and public awareness programs are crucial to changing perceptions about this problem and preventing it from occurring.
Safe Harbor Laws by State:
- New York: Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act
- California: Abolition of Child Commerce, Exploitation, and Sexual Slavery Act (ACCESS Act)
- Connecticut: Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act
- Washington: Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act – Illinois: Safe Children Act
- Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas legislatures are considering such laws.
- Ohio: House Bill 262
Legislation in Your State
Be an Advocate for Children in Your City/State.
1. Start with Research
Look up your state on the Polaris Project’s website (www.polarisproject.org/state-map)—which provides a full list of existing laws.
When starting to research your city/state law, here’s what to look for, starting out:
1. Does your city/state law, ordinance, or code mandate that every person found in prostitution be screened for signs of human trafficking?
2. Does your city/state law, ordinance, or code mandate that if those signs of human trafficking are present, the person must be routed to specified and appropriate social services?
3. Is there provision for addressing demand for sex trafficking and prostitution through arrest and/or education of buyers? And/or provisions for the arrest of sellers (pimps/traffickers)?
2. Stay Updated
After you’ve familiarized yourself with existing laws in your neighborhood and identified the gaps and necessities, stay updated on what policies are in the process of being decided upon.
Look up pending legislation in your state: capwiz.com/sharedhope/home/
Polaris Project also regularly updates their website with current actions: hq.salsalabs.com/o/5417/p/dia/action3/common/public/
Polaris Project’s website (www.polarisproject.org/state-map) also provides a list of anti-trafficking organizations in each state. Look through the list of organizations and their websites; do they have any initiatives about raising support for these laws that you can join?
Email your legislators with a letter stating the reasons why you think they should support this particular piece of legislation. The Shared Hope International website will always include a template email—but feel free to add some personal reasons of why you care about this issue.
After the email, give your legislators a call! Phone calls are much harder to ignore than an email—there’s no need to be nervous!
4. Thank the legislators
If/when the legislation is passed, don’t forget to send a thank you email to your representatives. This will encourage them to support anti-trafficking legislation in the future.
Information sourced from: Women of Vision, Polaris Project, Library of Congress, New York Times, Love146, Huffington Post